Entertainment Theater

René Pollesch, Provocative Drive in German Theater, Dies at 61

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René Pollesch, a prolific playwright and stage director whose work — intellectually severe but irreverent, chatty, goofy and riddled with popular culture references — made him some of the important forces in German theater of the previous three a long time, died on Monday in Berlin. He was 61.

His demise was introduced by the Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz theater, the place he had been creative director since 2021. No trigger was given.

Mr. Pollesch (pronounced POL-esh) wrote roughly 200 performs and directed a overwhelming majority of them himself, usually at main theaters within the German-speaking world. However whereas his performs lit up levels in locations like Stuttgart, Hamburg, Vienna and Zurich, he was most carefully related to the Volksbühne, a publicly funded playhouse in what as soon as was East Berlin, that had a repute for daring and provocative theatermaking.

Mr. Pollesch took over management of the theater after years of managerial turmoil set off by the dismissal of the corporate’s longtime creative director, Frank Castorf, in 2017. When Mr. Pollesch arrived, two others within the prime publish had come and gone, and the theater was craving stability.

In his two and a half seasons on the helm, he staged 9 unique performs, eight of which stay within the theater’s repertoire. The latest, “ja nichts ist okay” (“sure nothing is okay”) premiered on Feb. 11.

He had earlier run the theater’s smaller, off-site venue, the Prater, and directed dozens of productions each there and in the primary home.

Mr. Pollesch’s performs, often underneath 90 minutes, usually made severe social and political factors with sitcom-like levity and dada-like disregard for typical logic. His distinctive model of theater, variously described as postmodern and postdramatic, was quick on character and plot however huge on verbal excessive jinks and quirky performances, all developed along with his favourite actors, together with Sophie Rois, Fabian Hinrichs and Martin Wuttke, who basically grew to become his co-creators.

A lot of his productions achieved cultlike standing in Berlin and elsewhere, however the intensely collaborative manner he devised his performs along with his trusted actors made it difficult for different administrators to stage his work, which remained largely outlined by their unique casts and productions. Whereas his works have been seen all through Europe and even in Tokyo and Brazil, up to now, none of his works have been staged in america.

In a 2006 essay within the journal Modern Theatre Assessment, the scholar David Barnett prompt that Mr. Pollesch’s work, typically labeled diskurstheater (“discourse theater”), didn’t simply translate to an Anglo-American context. His “sustained reputation is probably tough for the English-speaking reader to grasp, as lots of the performs are devoid of each character and plot,” Dr. Barnett, a professor of theater on the College of York, wrote.

The critic Peter Laudenbach wrote in an appraisal on Tuesday within the Munich-based newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung that Mr. Pollesch had “developed his personal type of theater,” calling it “extraordinarily entertaining and on the similar time on par with superior sociological debates.”

“The performing was virtuosic, stunningly informal, nearly all the time stunning and by no means boring,” he added, “not least as a result of extra fascinating concepts flashed by means of Pollesch’s items per minute than wherever else throughout the whole season: critiques of capitalism with enjoyable and complex leisure like within the higher form of boulevard theater, ideally with music by the Seashore Boys or Sinatra’s ‘Fly Me to the Moon.’”

René Pollesch was born on Oct. 29, 1962, in Friedberg, a city near Frankfurt, in what was then West Germany. His father, Romuald, was a faculty custodian; his mom, Emmi, ran the family. Mr. Pollesch is survived by his father and an older sister.

Within the Nineteen Eighties, he majored in utilized theater research on the College of Giessen, near his hometown, and wrote performs on a weekly foundation, staging them along with his classmates.

After graduating, he briefly ran his personal theater firm in Frankenthal, a city in southwest Germany, earlier than working as a playwright and producer on the Theater am Flip in Frankfurt. In 1996, he received a scholarship to work and examine on the Royal Court docket Theater in London, the place he participated in seminars led by the playwrights Harold Pinter and Caryl Churchill.

A turning level in his profession got here in 2001, when, at 39, he received the Mulheim Playwright’s Prize, one in all Germany’s prime theatrical honors, for “world broad web-slums,” a seven-part “theater cleaning soap” that premiered on the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg. The Mulheim jury singled out the play’s “determined comedy.” He received the prize a second time in 2006. A newer accolade was the Arthur Schnitzler Prize, awarded in Vienna in 2019.

Mr. Pollesch took over the Prater, the Volksbühne’s studio stage, in late 2001 and ran it till 2007. In performs like “The Metropolis as Prey” and “Insourcing House — Folks in Grotty Resorts,” he critiqued life underneath world capitalism. On the similar time, he continued engaged on the theater’s foremost stage. In all, he staged greater than 40 Volksbühne productions till 2017.

One of the vital well-liked was “Kill Your Darlings! Streets of Berladelphia,” a car in 2012 for one in all Mr. Pollesch’s favourite collaborators, Fabian Hinrichs, a charismatic actor who delivered a mordantly comedian and bodily energetic monologue surrounded by 14 gymnasts.

When Mr. Castorf was ousted in 2017, Mr. Pollesch from the Volksbühne additionally stopped working there, discovering a brief house in Berlin on the Deutsches Theater. In 2020, he and Mr. Hinrichs offered out a 2,000-seat revue theater in Berlin for one more manufacturing that pitted its garrulous star in opposition to a gaggle of silent dancers.

The present, “Believing within the Chance of the World’s Full Renewal,” was filled with existential ruminations, each humdrum and profound, together with exhilarating performances set to a propulsive soundtrack.

In June 2019, when Mr. Pollesch’s appointment to steer the Volksbühne was introduced, he signaled his intention to work collaboratively with actors, choreographers, artists and costume designers, whom he known as, in English, his “sisters and brothers in crime.”

He professed, although, to have no real interest in managing a theater within the normal manner, organizing the customary opening night time events or publishing season brochures. What was essential to him, he stated, was being a creative director who “doesn’t behave correctly and doesn’t do the whole lot that’s anticipated of him.”

When Mr. Pollesch began his tenure in 2021, he was the fourth particular person to run the Volksbühne in 4 years. Many hoped that as a veteran of that famously radical home, he would restore it to its former greatness. He was actually credited with stabilizing the playhouse, however the acclaim that the Volksbühne had recognized earlier than proved elusive.

The primary new play he wrote and directed as creative director, “The Rise and Fall of a Curtain and Its Life in Between,” was a low-key chamber piece through which 4 actors bantered within the Mr. Pollesch’s signature absurdist, borderline-obsessive dialogue. The manufacturing fizzled.

But when, at his demise, he hadn’t but succeeded in restoring the Volksbühne to its former luster, he had received credit score for introducing a number of artists to the home, together with the choreographer Florentina Holzinger, who went on to broad acclaim.

Critics had been additionally typically impressed with Mr. Pollesch’s ultimate manufacturing in his first season, in 2022, “Geht es dir intestine?” (“Are You Alright?”), partially a response to the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that yr. It starred Mr. Hinrichs, backed by African and Bulgarian singing teams in addition to an area break-dancing troupe. Some critics thought-about the work a return to type for Mr. Pollesch.

To the tip, he remained dedicated to shedding theatrical conventions along with his unmistakable combine of popular culture, vital principle and manic performances.

“I don’t imagine in dialogue. I don’t imagine in plot. I don’t imagine in storytelling. I imagine in one thing else — in communication,” he had stated in a 2007 interview with The Wall Avenue Journal. “I don’t interpret texts. I don’t use metaphor. Our texts are very concrete, very direct. We attempt to talk with folks within the viewers.”